Confused Questions

1. Does it make sense to construe norms into the discourse of epistemology?
2. What are the status of the theoretical norms?
3. What theoretical norms are there?

We could have:

i. Ontological unity (naturalism – strong)
ii. Methodological unity (naturalism – weak)
iii. Conceptual unity (Transcendental)
iv. Systematicity (Transcendental)
v. A set of peacemeal norms, induction, parsimony etc.

4. Question-begging, how is induction set into a norm? This relates to the following question

5. If we assume inductive behaviour is inevitable (which, it kind of is), then there is a fact of the matter about the fact that we do use it; further, there is an inevitability about our use of it. Given its inevitability, is there an ought implies can consideration to be made? I see contrary tendencies as to the question of the rationality of questioning the epistemic practice that we deem inevitable (Cf. Stern 2000)

6. We may have epistemic norms of differing graces: strong norms like induction, or systematicity is stronger still, but we may have rules of thumb like parsimony; it may seem that the image is far from systematic, but Quinean-web-like

Destre (and Michael)



Anyone who is under 35, or, who hardly engages in the drudgeries of celebrity culture and the ultramodern world of bloggospheres, heat magazine (my perennial enemy), and other such nonsenseries, may not have come across the phrase, or expression “noughties”.

Noughties is a parody of a term, it is a bricolage (breaking up of words and fusion of a new concept), and as such, it fulfills two aspects of the postmodern social condition. Noughties is a pun on ‘Nineties’, but ‘nought’ referring to 00s. To refer to something as xx-ties is a late 20thC convention; noughties represents the continuation of this concept, but demonstrating the ineptitude of actually having a xx-ties about a ‘nought’ . As such, it is an empty, redundant term, much like the emptiness and redundance of normal social interactions in this bleak, plastic, social world; and it is a sad remnant of a generation of people who had lived and enjoyed the late 20thC.

What defines the noughties?

What defines the age of today? In a lot of ways, it seems to be a continuation of the nineties; in a way, it seems to be a self-aware parody of the past; celebrating era like the 1970’s, 1980’s, as if they were characterised only by its music, and its attire. Overshadowing the historical events like the cold war, vietnam, or Thatcherism.

I was with Michael at a talk a week or so ago, by a philosopher named Morgan; talking on the issue of Seduction. There was a passing comment where Morgan said “I’m a noughties man, I meet girls on the internet…”. I thought then, what is it that consists when we say someone is encapusulated by a period of time; there used to be a phrase “it’s the nineties”, which denoted that it was a positive time for change, in terms of ecology and our attitudes towards society and nature. Now, the noughties seems to be a time of self-indulgence and cynicism. The noughties seems to be an age where men are obsessed by appearance (metrosexual), ambivalent about social issues, but only providing lip service to causes (slacktivism – an actual word, I looked it up).

What defines us today? I suppose it is that we care so little about things; where doctors and teachers care not for their duties, but league tables; where academic funding bodies care about reputation and bureaucracy; where help is as long as the money notes from whence it came.

Someone once said “It is not an enlightened age, but it is the age of enlightenment“; what a sad day when not even that is true…

Sapere Aude…


The ship of Stratovarius (on ideology and semantics)


Anyone who is familiar with the metal scene of Finland knows about the recent spat between Timo Tolkki and the rest of the members of Stratovarius. In a previous post, I reported the news that Stratovarius broke up; but then came a whole barrage of replies from two parties; Timo Tolkki, and the rest of Stratovarius. These recent events are much like the whole open letter affair with Nightwish and their former singer. Has Finnish heavy metal become so big, that it has taken on the mechanics and suave of modern bands, of having official fan clubs, official merchandise, PAs, photoshoots and open letters? It seems long from the harked days of underground bands playing in California who were known by their audiences bootlegging their gigs, but that’s a whole other point at hand…

The heart of Stratovarius

I can engage in a suitably philosophical discussion about the semantics and modality of ‘Stratovarius’; but I want to address a more human point.

Stratovarius is a band that, for me, and a lot of people I know, represents a mindset. It is, I thought quite clearly, until recently, a band that was in tune with a lot of the heavy metal scene in Europe; trying to come to terms with the bleakness, superficiality, conformism and fostered attitude of normative-heterogeneity, by replying either by an expression of despair [such as EToS]; fantasy; or perseverence. Stratovarius represented the most noble of these responses: perseverence, the strength to keep fighting on in a world of superficiality. How ironic, and how disturbing I find it that Stratovarius engages in this kind of dispute. Not to take any sides on the issue, but when a band that for me, represents perseverence and a way of coping with the modern world, has infighting, one kind of loses hope in the message they once represented.

Now, for a rather odd analysis of ‘Stratovarius’….

The semantics of ‘Stratovarius’

Timo Tolkki, de re, was not the original founder of the band, contrast this to Tuomas’ role in Nightwish. It is Tuomas’ baptism of the band, that makes him the essential feature of the band; the necessary condition for ‘Nightwish’ to refer is that Tuomas is in it. Can we say the same for Timo and Strato? The short answer is yes (because he is the lyrical and musical direction of the whole band since 1984); but the long answer is no he fails to fulfill the de re necessity Kripke designator.

There have been many bands (my first thought on this is the Norweigian band Mayhem) which have none of the de re original members present in their current lineup, yet the name of the band still refers. This is obviously like the philosophical problem of identity, the Ship of Theseus; if you replace every plank, is it still the same ship?

In the case of Mayhem; some of the original members have left, and then returned; much like Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath (replaced by Dio, Tony Martin, etc.); however, unlike Mayhem, Black Sabbath maintained the essential feature, the conponent of Tommy Iommi; who has, rather significantly, maintained throughout the whole career of Sabbath; being the creative force behind it, despite how most people associate it with Ozzy (or, as some of the fan discourses argue, Dio, but that very fact points out the finitude of the lead singer as being core to the band).

Is it possible, further, is it legitimate, semantically, for a band to have changed its whole membership and yet still refer by its original name? What of any organisation for that instance. Is the philosophy department of Cambridge still legitimate to claim heritage of Russell, Wittgenstein and Moore, even though they have long gone?


Does philosophy have a foundation?

If we are to construe philosophy as having the highest degree of generality insofar as it legitimates and accounts for all intellectual practices, we may be justified in our belief of it as a queen of the sciences.

Kant proposed, I argue, that there are foundations to our thought, principles that regulate our thinking insofar as we are rational at all; these assumptions underpin the whole enterprise of exploration and thought itself. These reflective principles of judgment are; systematicity, unity, among others. Let us consider unity for now.

Unity is the ideal of knowledge being in a full continuum. That mathematics may be on the same par as aesthetics; that engineering with medicine; that metaphysics be on par with logic. What are the underlying regulative principles upon which they consist? It is such a construal of the question, if it can ever be answered, that may demonstrate the fundamental unity of knoweldge.

Does philosophy have a common base? This seems a most ridiculous suggestion, at least, prima facie. Given the law of a philosopher always having an equal yet opposite opponent; given that there are many who give strong arguments for theses so vastly distinct, and often, so vastly opposite; from atheism to realism, nominalism to realism.

Philosophers, if they are genuine of heritage from the tradition of Socrates; have the fundamental desire to understand, and express this by their fundamental of explaining. This is very vague, indeed. But to explain, one may, as a legitimate normative principle, must have something explainable. It is here, that we may input the desiderata of the principle of suffiicient reason; that every ‘why’ question has an answer.

We are but the immature child, who asks the parent why; the question of why in this child consists of a continuous enquiry, further and further they go, asking deeper truths of an explanation; why did x? why is this answer adequate? what constitutes an answer? why should I accept it?

Knowledge, and reality, we must conceive of the former insofar as we can understand the limits of the latter. Such is the transcendental project of philosophy.

Michael, Destre

Beauty as a feeling (On Allison’s ‘chain of associations’)

In the year 1789 (I think), Archibald Allison published a work on aesthetics, on the same year as Immanuel Kant; it was a directly opposed theory with deeply empiricist flavourings. Kant’s aesthetic account, by contrast, is more nuanced of a rationalist account, but Allison assert what Kant denies, but in doing so, I think Allison hit the nail right on the head on some issues.

One particular conception that I considered prima facie true, and my mind really hasn’t changed on this, is the significant empirical component in our aesthetic behaviour. When I see an object, I associate it with past memories in which I have seen it, and with past times in which I saw it; and those past times evoke memories of the feeling I had when I saw it.

For me, a summer’s day reminds me of those days in the collegium with S*; it reminds me of a few other summers which were particularly bad, but it also, through the culmination of these memories, synthesises to a new experience: it is no longer the past, it is now; this year can be different. A chain of reasoning comes through the cognizance of our recollection, a determinate set of facts, and an indeterminate process of feeling.

Granted, there is a very complex and relative chain of thought to our associations, and it would be interesting to formalise the process we have in such cases; we could have a formal logic of aesthetics, or a formal logic of memory, or even a formal logic of emotional reasoning/emotional conditionalisation.

But what I think is the lasting platitude here, is the undeniable empirical aspect of aesthetics (aesthetics, after all, is experience)…

Michael, Sinistre

What is the real conflict, here?

Last night, Antisophie gave me a phonecall and told me that a Vatican astronomy expert said that the Church should not rule out the possibility that there could be life on Mars. I’ve often thought about how a Christian would consider the issue of extra-terrestrial life. My prima facie thoughts would be that a Christian has motivations not to accept such a possibility; but what kind of Christian would that be?

Such a Christian would maintain that Jesus is the source of all salvation; that humanity is the pinnacle of creation, and that as createes in Eden; we have taken on damnation by original sin. It would be those things, core to Christian belief, to which we would deny alien life; why?

Because Jesus is the source of all salvation; if (counterfactual) we entertained there was alien life who was conscious and aware and sentient like us; it too would require salvation. Or, would they? Would these aliens require Jesus’ salvation? Or would they go to hell because they never knew Jesus? Or, if we are really pushing it; did God have another son whom which he sacrificed for another terrestrial race? The latter is a very hard and challenging thought that, I suppose, a believer wouldn’t want to accept. I’m not asserting these questions are problems, but they are things a believer would want to answer; for the conceivability and overall cogency of their view.

If there was life outside of Earth; are we then the pinnacle of creation? If there is life outside of earth; are they tainted by original sin?

On the one hand; I don’t really think there should be much of a conflict; but then, Master Destre said to me; “Think harder, Magister”, his eyes, penetrated through me as his pupils sharpened and focused at me with his dry, icy gaze.

Think about the beliefs that we hold; and think about the comfort that we have when we believe them to be true. Of course, there are many beliefs to which we are uncomfortable about, that we hold true. The fact that we have things that we do not like to admit, but are nonetheless true, and we believe so, shows that we do not simply believe in things we want to.

Perhaps it is a sign of rationality or reflexivity if one demonstrates that their beliefs are subject to some experiential or rational tribunal; where the tribunal of truth and validity lies either outside of us (experience), or imbued within the laws outside of us (reasoning). Is it easy to believe that God loves us? No, it is not; to believe that God loves us, is hardly evidenced in the world. Where is God in the natural disasters of the world, our own personal tragedies, and the fundamental injustices that we inflicts upon our siblings. It is not easy to beleive that there will be a happy ending, especially for those who are heavily involved in the relief of the plight of others. What there is, is a hope, a hope that salvation will come; and this is seriously challenged by the presence of bad fortune and evil in the world. It is far from easy for the intelligent person to believe in God; or for the genuinely compassionate to have hope, in the face of utter despair. Yet, some still do…

What about the flexibility of scientific practice? Imagine to find your life’s work, celebrated by generations after you, being destroyed, or modified beyond your recognition, in the name of truth-preservation. What certainty or fortitude is there in physics? The scientific outlook is one based on shaky metaphysical grounds, shaky empirical methodology, and uncertain substantive conclusions. Rightly so, many would affirm. But, here we have a worldview very uncertain, always subject to change, in constant flux. It is this kind of worldview that tensely is distinct in form from that of the religious belief worldview. The world of the religious beliver is one that has a hope for certainty and truth, and underlying resolution; in the light of flux; and science, is the acknowledgment of flux, and perhaps, the search for similar certainty? We then might say, young charge, that this is not a difference in ideology. Cultural mindset perhaps? To challenge the sensibilities of how one live’s their lives and sees the world? We must always doubt; perhaps this is the test for believers; to find tthe most proper channel for their belief in the light of a powerful rational method. Do we oppose it, or try to find resolution? Or, better still, adopt the rational method as standard, and consider our epistemic norms; such as the good deontic conception of principles like “follow the conclusions to wherever they take you”.

Epistemic norms? Something I find quite interesting, myself…


Commitments (Arithmetic)

A thought without a resolution; a question without an answer I propose in the following:

Consider the following statements:

i. The set of real numbers has a subset of entities which are prime

ii. There is always a higher prime number after any given prime number n

iii. Either there is a highest prime number, or there is not

iv. (It is necessarily the case that) If I entertain any candidate for a ‘highest prime number’; there will always be a higher prime

v. If there is either a highest prime number or there is not, and it is the case that there will always be a higher prime, then it is not the case that there is a highest prime number

vi. If the number line were finite, then perhaps there would be a highest prime number

These are all different kinds of statements:

i. Is a claim about a set of mathematical objects, an assertoric claim about the number line; but is it existential? Is it analytic? is it a priori? is it contingent or necessary?

ii. The expression ‘There is’ intuitively expresses an existential proposition, however, it is an existential proposition about a set (the set of prime numbers), which itself is part of a set (natural numbers); so, to say ‘there is’, in this context is necessarily elliptical upon the committment to the prime number and real number set; do any of these have existential commitment within itself?

iii. Is a disjunctive logical statement; the nature of a disjunction (PvQ) is such that P may hold as an assertoric claim, where Q may be complete nonsense; furthermore, do we have an exclusive (PvQ), where it is the case that (P&Q); or (P&¬(Q)) v ((¬P)&Q)? furthermore, if we address this issue of the inclusive or exclusive disjunction, is this an ontic claim about the metalanguage? Further; what rules can we assert about the construction of the grammar, and what is the status of these rules themselves?

v. Is a modus ponens; to what do I commit to when I assert modus ponens? Do I need to commit to P to assert P–>Q? Furthermore; do I need to assert the truth claim; or tacitly suppose the rule of modus ponens in order to assert any material implicature

iv. Is a necessity claim, and thus, a modal claim; how do we construct necessity claims at all? Do we need token entities to instantiate natural kinds to demarcate the neccessary? Or do we need to posit an Ersatz plurality to ensure the plenitude of possibilities being genuinely assertoric?

vi. This is a counterfactual; is it absurd to posit a counterfactual about a finite number line? For example; if the last number in the line was 100, and there was nothing above it; is this inconcievable, further, is this possible, but inconceivable? or impossible because its inconceivable? Finally, if we were a Lewisian Modal Realist; could we entertain modal claims about the nature of mathematics itself? or modal claims about the rules of modality? (for instance, saying ‘it’s possible to have a world where we are ersatzist, and another world which is Lewisian in logical space’? This sounds ridiculous a claim prima facie.

Destre (and Michael)

The Object (ϕ) of my affect (ψ)

I’ve been meaning to write some words on this issue for a long time on Noumenal Realm. Let me state a running thought in Spinoza that I have trouble trying to grapple on.

There is a story attributed to Derek Parfit (cf. Cogito interview) that goes like this: one day, Parfit was having car trouble, due to the cold weather, and his lack of preparation to get the car in a suitable condition to drive in the cold. This set the scene, emotionally, at least, for the rest of Parfit’s day. So, he finds that the slightest thing would make him angry.

The Spinozist thought here, is this. Sometimes things happen during our day that cause a change in our mood

S(ϕa) –> S(ψa)

This change in our mood may lead to our conduct of the rest of the day being altered, in lieu of this; our motivational profile, on a synchronic scale, can be explained in virtue of this change in our mood [S(ψa)].

x(S(ψa)) —> x(S(ϕx) (ψa <–> ϕx))

Spinoza’s suggestion, however, is that if we change the antecedent belief or mental state upon which we are occaisioned, the feeling which hitherto was our reference point for explaining our immediate consequenct action, we may be able to change the kind of action such that (ϕx) may change into a different species (ϕy), given we address the cause of the motivation of our action (ψa). Once we realise the object of our affect, and realise upon what our affect springs itself from, we may limit the particular feeling and dedicate it to its proper place, and not let it affect our other actions.

The construal of the Spinozist solution invites us to challenge it. Even if I know from which my feeling lies, you may object, I still feel angry! Yes, indeed, one may reply. But all the better of being aware, and all the better of being reflective in such a way to review our own motivations, beliefs and other such mental states insofar as it affects our action, that such a reflective way of addressing our inner states may help us to emendate ourselves.

The Spinozist story of the good life is wider than this, granted. However, what is said of this step? When we realise the object of our affect; do we conditionalise upon our belief? do we have sufficient motivational grounds to change our actions of species ψx given that it is not the case that ϕa? This raises the deeper issue of the relation between our mental states, and action. My initial prejudiced answer would be that we have beliefs and deliberative mental furniture, which is an input, and the output is action. The scientific story, as I am being told many a time, is not as easy as this….

Michael (and Destre)

Two senses of…

The expression of “I’m sorry” has two distinct meanings:

  1. “I’m sorry” denotes sympathy
  2. “I’m sorry” denotes an apology

The expression of “believing in (something)” has two distinct aspects

  1. To believe in something means to have a commitment to saying that the object in question exists, and that we hold this proposition true in our mental furniture as a belief about the true states of affairs.
  2. To believe in something is to have a commitment to a thing in a way beyond some mere trivial fact about our own propositional set of beliefs, but about who we are as people. This latter sense is harder to express.

I think in the expression of “I’m sorry”, both senses can harmlessly be one and the same. One can express “I’m sorry” as an expression of sympathy, while not being culpable or accepting responsibility to the thing in which she is sorry about. This is a harmless expression.

When someone says, however “I believe in God”; I’m sure that they mean it in both senses of the word; and, it is the latter sense in which we should give a story. What is it about belief in something that is consisted within it, to explain what it means when we say something like “I believe in you”, or “I believe in myself”.

Destre (and Michael)